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We love how much culture you can soak up in a big city like Buenos Aires, but the Argentine capital isn’t the best place to experience the country’s Gaucho culture. A massive cattle country, Argentina’s gauchos are very comparable to the American cowboys and are found mostly in the pampa region. There is one way to get a taste of it though, at the Feria de Mataderos, a weekly folk festival held in the western outskirts of the capital.
The festival’s namesake, Mataderos, is today a neighborhood within the city limits of Buenos Aires, but it was the center of the Argentine cattle trade at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, the name ‘Mataderos’ means slaughterhouses in Spanish. Over 100 years later, Sundays are much more light-hearted affair, with folkloric dances performed by dancers in traditional costumes, a stage with folk singers and hundreds of spectators celebrating Gaucho culture. The streets surrounding the stage are lined with stalls selling cowboy boots, knives, horse shoes, artisan cheeses, delicious breads, Argentine wine, figs, nuts, homemade jams and just about anything you can think to make out of a horse hoof.
There are horses at the Feria, too. Gauchos compete in a traditional contest called Carrera de Sortija, where horses gallop as fast as they can towards a small hanging wedding ring which the gauchos have to hook onto a silver stick while thundering past on the horse.
It might have been the heat, but the horses all seemed a bit distressed, making the contest hard to enjoy, but we loved the different dances and musicians, particularly this accordion player, who dedicated the entire afternoon to playing his antique accordion. You can get a better feel for the Feria De Mataderos in this video, shot by our friends Erin & Simon who visited Argentina in 2010.
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